Solving the Maze

Is 100GbE The Easiest Answer To Your Looming Network Obsolescence?

Solving the MazeI’m getting buried in software-defined networking surveys, consortiums, standards, product announcements, and plans. When you combine them with all the studies about data growth and looming network obsolescence, it’s hard not to at least consider drinking the SDN Kool-Aid. Most everybody agrees that SDN interest — if not the number of actual implementations — is growing, but there’s still a lot of work to be done on standards, compatibility, and education. In the meantime, throwing larger-capacity switches at the problem continues as an attractive alternative.

According to a new survey from Infonetics Research, shipments of higher-speed ports — 10G, 40G, 100G — shot up 62% in 2012. We expect high-speed (10G+) port revenue to double by 2017, to over $42 billion, noted Matthias Machowinski, directing analyst for enterprise networks and video.

The number of 1G, 10G, 40G, and 100G network ports shipped on service provider and enterprise equipment in 2012 grew 22% over the previous year, to top 360 million. 10G currently accounts for about 75% of all high-speed (10G+) ports shipped, while 1G ports still make up a significant portion of overall shipments and will continue growing as 1G becomes the standard in service provider and enterprise access networks. Geographically, Asia Pacific led in port shipments, aided by increasing adoption in previously lagging emerging economies and ubiquitous Ethernet services.

Another recent survey by CommScope of more than 1,100 IT professionals from 63 countries found that nearly a third of participants indicated that 40GbE and 100GbE would have a significant impact on their future operations.

While 10, 40 and 100GbE are getting all the love, the IEEE just started up the IEEE 802.3 400 Gb/s Ethernet (400GbE) Study Group, which will hold its first meeting in May. According to Ethernet Alliance President Scott Kipp, the standard should be completed by 2016. The group will define the objectives for the future 400GbE project, and it is thought that 400 GbE will be able to re-use existing technology, similarly to how 40GbE and 100GbE re-used 10GbE technology. With the technique of using multiple 100GbE modules, a switch or blade could also break out the 400GbE port into 4 100GbE ports. This breakout would enable high density 100GbE ports in a similar manner to how 40G QSFP+ modules are broken out into 4 10GbE ports today.

Rather than jumping to 1 Terabit Ethernet, as was expected, the next increment increase is expected to be 1.6TbE, although no timeline has been given. Hmmm, maybe it will be time to take another look at SDN.